IPI's Mid-Season Rankings: #8-#14
Tony Lastoria produces the best Indians prospect rankings in baseball every year, providing some of the most essential information on Tribe prospects for any Cleveland Indians’ fan. In working with Tony over the years, one of the pieces that we are going to start developing here at Indians Prospect Insider is a mid-season prospect report, that will update Tony’s rankings mid-season, after the Major League First-Year player draft. To do this will be a massive undertaking from year-to-year, as Tony spends hundreds of hours compiling data and player development interviews to create his rankings.
While this is going to be a focus of the site next year around the all-star break for our premium customers, I was able to sit down with Tony this week and talk to him about some of the movers and the shakers in this year’s rankings. While this isn’t a straight up Tony Lastoria top 21, I’ve used our conversation, his pre-season rankings, Jeff Ellis and Tony’s outstanding draft coverage, player performance this season, and a sprinkle of my own bit of knowledge to compile a top 21 look at the prospects in the system here in mid-to-late July.
This ranking system varies slightly from Tony’s rankings, but do incorporate them fully, with other information and preference that I’ve input as well.
There are a couple of things to take into account with regards to my mid-year rankings:
- Players that are injured are taken into account, but I’ve downgraded them several slots from where I would normally rank them, especially if their injuries have severely affected their ability to play in 2012. For example, Chen Lee has made my rankings. If he were healthy, you would likely see him 5-10 slots higher. My weighted system was based on upside, past performance, and performance this year. Without that third component, I had to downgrade a few players.
- Some players are considered major leaguers now, and won’t show up in the rankings. For example, Zach McAllister would clearly be in my top 5-10 if he were still a prospect, and a couple of starts ago, he would have still made it. At this point, McAllister isn’t a prospect, he’s a bona-fide major leaguer. Cody Allen, on the other hand, has made only two appearances, and while he’ll likely never see the minors again, I will consider him a prospect until he spends a couple more weeks with the big league Tribe. YOU WILL see him in this ranking system.
It is likely that the Indians will be players in the trade deadline in some form or fashion, although the sweep by Baltimore will likely curtail any major deals. If a player in the rankings is dealt, I will alter them accordingly in a future report.
Part 2 of the rankings will be today, in which I’ll look at the Tribe’s #8-#14 prospects. #8 will be free, while #9-14 will be a premium feature. You can find the link to #9-#14 here. You can find the link to #15 here. You can find the link to #16-#22 HERE. All links will be provided after the article. I’ll follow that up later in the week with the #1-#7.
Without further ado…here we go with #8...
#8: SS/2B, Ronny Rodriguez: Carolina Mudcats:
There’s something to actually watching a guy play baseball every day. It’s funny how often you hear pundits (including me) talk about how good a player is without seeing him play, or even worse, seeing him play once or twice. It’s the nature of the beast in the minor league game, and Ronny Rodriguez has fallen into that category for many scouts. Many will look at his 6’0”, 170 pound frame, and immediately typecast him as a light-hitting, fielding first middle infielder, who may, if he’s lucky, be a utility player. If you watch him over a game or two, you may still feel that way. But to watch this kid day-in and day-out lets you know that there’s a whole lot more going on with Rodriguez than that.
Rodriguez was signed as an 18-year old free agent in October of 2010, and the Indians saw enough in him to place him at Lake County to start his professional career off. Rodriguez became the Captains primary shortstop, and this was based on their belief that his athleticism, while in a small package, would make him a top prospect. They were clearly right, as he began showing his tools right away.
Like many young players, Rodriguez struggled with pitch selection during that first season, and struck out 83 times in 98 ballgames, while only walking on 13 occasions. He also struggled a bit on the base paths. While he stole 10 bases, showing really good speed, he was caught seven times. His OBP was too low at .274, but his OPS and other stats showed a gem in the making. Even with the OBP under .300, his OPS was at a solid .723. In those 98 games, he hit 28 doubles, seven triples and had 11 home runs. It seemed as if this small, toolsy package could hit the baseball. 2012 would be a big year for him.
On opening night, Rodriguez went 2-for-4, with two runs, a triple and two RBI. His triple came on a laser to straightaway center that hit high up the 20-foot wall. While he struggled for most of that month (he was hitting .188 on May 3rd), you could see that there was a player there. May 4th is when things really started to change for Rodriguez. He went four for four, with three runs and two RBI, with two doubles. Since that day, Rodriguez is hitting .296 in 68 games, with 43 runs, 12 doubles, two triples and an impressive 11 home runs. He has 38 RBI, and five stolen bases. He still has struck out 44 times vs. only eight walks, but he is striking out less. He just has to learn how to take some walks.
Defensively, he has the tools to be something pretty special, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s at the shortstop position. In his two seasons there, his fielding percentage is .922. He has the tools, but hasn’t made much progress. Part of that may be the fact that the Indians have moved him to second base for some of the time, while he and Wolters alternate positions. At second, Rodriguez is a much better defender, having made only five errors in 178 chances, for a .972 fielding percentage. Ultimately, that’s likely his position.
He’s still a project, but the foundation for this project is more than solid. This kid has all the tools to be a big-time player in the upper levels and the bigs. As he moves away from the instincts, and moves towards knowledge of how to play the game, he should be a very special player. He’s got the potential to be a 20-20 guy in the bigs. As a middle infielder, that makes him very valuable going forward. Of course, there is this Kipnis guy….
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.